CENTER — It certainly makes sense that nationally known comedian Willie P. Richardson’s final gig is a tribute to his friend Pam White.
“I thought that it would be fitting to do my final concert as a tribute to a good friend here in East Texas, rather than in an auditorium several states away,” Richardson said of the July 19 fundraiser at New Life Church in Center.
He met White, founder of Shelby County Outreach Ministries, when she contacted him several years ago about performing in a concert to raise funds for the Center-based ministry.
“Since that time we worked together on several projects to raise money for the organization, including an appearance by my friend, George Foreman, last November in Center,” Richardson said. “Pam was one the most-giving people I’ve ever known. She didn’t care about making money for herself, but devoted her life to helping those less-fortunate.”
White, 53, died in April in Nacogdoches.
“Her sudden death was such a shocker to me and to her friends and family … it means so much to me to get to pay tribute to her by doing this event on July 19. I’m supposed to be a comedian, but I know I’ll have a hard time getting through the performance without getting emotional. I’m hoping that we have a huge crowd to show support to her family and to the organization she loved so much,” Richardson said.
Similar in nature to Jacksonville’s H.O.P.E. ministry, the Shelby County Outreach Ministries informally kicked off with a free community Thanksgiving dinner in 1991, then officially incorporated in 1997, according to the organization’s Facebook page. White served as executive director of the organization.
During his 40-year career, Richardson has sold more than 1.25 million copies of recordings of his prank phone calls, which he has described in his biography at www.worldwidewillie.com as “having harmless fun with folks.”
Still, he is amazed by how well-received his work has been.
“I had no idea that the career would last this long, much less to make recordings that folks of all ages seem to enjoy,” he explained, adding that he has been “‘pranking’ people since I was a young boy and never thought I’d actually be able to make a living from it one day. I’ve had the opportunity to travel all over America and to several other countries performing. The friends I’ve made in these places are cherished.”
Richardson seems to be the epitome of the adage, ‘Do something you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.’
“Finding what you love to do and doing it for a living is the best feeling in the world,” he agreed. “The ‘high’ that I get from standing in front of a crowd of a dozen people up to thousands can’t be compared to anything else I’ve ever known. I just thank the Good Lord for allowing me to do it for as long as I have,” he said.
As he prepares for the July 19 memorial concert for White, the comedian encouraged others to tap into their special talent the way his friend had, using it to make a difference in others’ lives.
“Every person has a special talent ... It may not be singing, acting or telling jokes, but each person is unique. I encourage everyone to try and find some way to help another person or another family in need,” he said. “It may be visiting someone in a hospital or nursing home … taking a meal to a person who can’t get out of the house … picking up the phone and calling someone just to tell them you’re thinking about them … sending a short note. Simply telling your friends and family that you love them.
“You’ll be amazed at how folks will respond to the smallest act of kindness – maybe it’s because we’re all in our own little worlds these days and we’re so busy, but lots of folks have forgotten how little effort it takes to do something nice for another person,” he said. “If you’re not doing it, try it! You’ll make someone else happy, and you’ll feel better for doing it.”